Off the Record: Don’t mess with perfection

There is a cabinet in The Journal office that marks the boundary between the newsroom and the circulation office. It is the perfect height, perfect size and perfect location for people who bring treats to the office. And we do have a lot of people who bring treats.

The other day there was a bag of “Fun-Size” Snickers on the cabinet. (Fun Size? Now, there’s a misnomer if every I heard one. What’s so fun about a candy bar that’s less than a cubic inch big? One bite and it’s gone! To me, a fun size candy bar would be about the size of a 2-by-4.)

Tiny as they were, they were still Snickers, which I consider to be the King of All Candy Bars. So I grabbed one and popped it in my mouth. After a couple of chews, I felt a burning sensaiton in my mouth, a heat usually associated with jalapeno peppers. I looked at the wrapper and saw this was a “Fiery Snickers.”

When did this happen? I looked online and found that Snickers now comes in three new flavors — Fiery, Espresso and Salty & Sweet.”

Why? Why, when a company has perfected something like the Snickers candy bar, the ultimate combination of chocolate, nougat, caramel and peanuts, do they feel the need to CHANGE it. There are some things you just don’t mess with.

Remember the “New Coke” fiasco? In April 1985, Coca-Cola introduced a reformulated version of Coke, a sweeter version designed to compete with Pepsi. Fans of the real Coke hated it, and within three months the old formula was back as “Coke Classic,” and the new formula was labeled “Coke II,” a version that was eliminated in 2002.

That fiasco is a cautionary tale for creators of snack foods. Don’t mess with perfection.

Another example is the Oreo cookie. When it comes to cookies, it is perfection. Crunchy and creamy, its chocolate cookie outside perfectly paired with the creamy filling. There was one change that one could not deny was an improvement, the introducion of the “Double Stuf” Oreos, with twice the filling.

But Nabisco, the maker of Oreos, keeps messing with them, filling them with mint creme, or chocolate creme, or dipping them in chocolate or white chocolate. Why?

And look at potato chips. The original potato chip is a food that cannot be improved upon. Miscrscopically thin slices of potato, fried in oil and covered with potentially lethal levels of salt. What could be better? Yet you cannot go down a snack aisle without seeing barbecue flavored chips, ranch flavor, onion flavor, salt and vinegar flavor, sea salt flavor — what a waste.

When I eat chili, I eat chili. When I eat Snickers, I eat Snickers. But never together. So don’t stick chili peppers in a Snickers bar and leave it out for the unsuspecting passerby.

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Kevin Sweeney has been the managing editor of The Journal since May 1985. A native of St. Paul, he worked at newspapers in LeSueur and Albert Lea before moving to New Ulm. Contact him at ksweeney@nujournal.com.

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